In this episode, Ragnar talks with Gert Klötzke. Chairman of Worldchefs Culinary Competition Committee and culinary competition gold medalist, Gert has spent over a decade mentoring the next generation of competition talent.
From Gastronomic Adviser for the Nobel Foundation, Honorable Doctor at University of Umeå, to Sweden Chef of Year – in the world of Swedish cooking, Gert has few peers. And with a number of Culinary Olympic and World Cup gold medals under his belt, this Certified A Judge has arguably written the rulebook for the international culinary competition scene.
Gert was Sweden’s team manager at the Culinary Olympics in 2000 and 2004, where Sweden was Overall Winner, and at the Culinary World Cup in 1998 and 2002. He was the competition trainer for the National Culinary Team of Finland, 2nd overall at the Culinary Olympics 2016. And yes, he’s on a Swedish stamp.
With such an illustrious career, we asked: Did competition help him achieve such great heights? He says yes. “Competition does help you in your career. If I look back through the Swedish team, many of the competitors from the team are running star restaurants, they’re all well known… If you really want to be serious to go into the restaurant business, and you want to go to be a successful head chef or restaurant owner, competition does help you.”
A big part of that is feedback, says Gert. Today’s judges should be equal parts watchful critic and tactful mentor. Having competed before, they can give valuable feedback to help competitors improve their skills. “It has to build them up for the next competition. Make sure they learn from it,” says Gert.
“You have to be aware that you’re cooking for judges. They are your guests and they’re looking at everything. So it’s more complicated than usual guests.”
The role of judges has changed, with giving feedback being a departure from culinary competitions of the past. “In the eighties and nineties, you really didn’t get any feedback. And you didn’t know why did you get a gold or why did you get a bronze. You had no idea. The way we’re going now – make sure to give good feedback. That’s really important. It’s the only way you can improve yourself as a chef.”
As a competitor, team trainer, and judge, he’s gotten and given a lot of feedback. He’s also seen a lot of mistakes. Most, he says, are completely avoidable with basic preparation and training. His advice: read the rules, practice, and pay attention to gloves. “Think about foodwaste, plastic waste. Make sure you cook perfectly. Every movement has to be really a planned.”
Judges Gert Klötzke and Stafford DeCambra with watchful eyes, in action at the IKA Culinary Olympics 2020.
Gert says he’s made just about every mistake you can. Recalling one of his own greatest mishaps in the competition kitchen, he was able to rebound and still bring the team to the top of the podium in the Hot Kitchen category. With training and practice comes the power to overcome obstacles and keep your cool. “You need to be open for the solutions and you should never panic. There’s always a way to get out of it.”
Seeing a responsibility to teach the next generation what he’s learned, Gert has developed a specialized Competition Seminar to help competitors reach their full potential. For the first time he’ll hold it online so that even more chefs can join.
In the 3-day Introduction to Competition Standards webinar, Gert covers common pitfalls and best practices for success. Participants learn what the judges look for, and how to achieve higher scores.
“It’s for anybody who wants to go into the competition, because if you do it right from the beginning, you can be really sure you will be on the top. It’s also mentality. You have to put time into it and you need to have goals. ‘I want to win.’ I think that’s it,” says Gert.
Gert and his Introduction to Competition Standards class in Paris, June 2019.
The Introduction to Competition Standards seminar can benefit judges, too. “I think before we even start with an idea to do a judging seminar, you should do this [Introduction] seminar first, and then you get a lot of experience. You’re much better prepared to do the judging seminar.”
Whether you’re looking to optimize your training or get the fundamentals necessary to be a stronger judge, 3 days with Gert will make you more prepared for whatever comes at you, at work or in the competition arena.
“Improve your quality as a chef and your own future will get better… Be an expert in your profession,” says Gert, “otherwise, it would be boring.”
To register for the Introduction to Competition Standards webinar with Gert, click here. Worldchefs is offering the seminar at a reduced price of €50, normally €250, so don’t wait! You’ll receive a Certificate and digital badge, too.
Want to learn more about becoming a Worldchefs Certified Judge? Visit www.worldchefs.org/Application-To-Become-A-Judge.
Gert continues to advise several teams in Europe, and he’s an active judge at competitions all over the globe. We’re looking forward to seeing you all again at Worldchefs endorsed competitions soon. Keep an eye on our event calendar, and stay connected with a free Worldchefs online account.
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